October 5 is International Teacher’s Day, and here in Moldova it’s a very big holiday (read about last year’s celebration here). At our school, we started the day off with a short assembly outside in the school’s courtyard. One student from each class presented their wishes for the teachers and thanked them for the work they do.
On Thursdays, my partner Liuba and I teach our younger students in 2nd through 3rd grade. One of the Moldovan traditions for Teacher’s Day is for older students to teach some of the lessons throughout the day instead of the teachers.
For our two 3rd grade classes, two girls, one in 8th grade and one in 9th grade, taught our lessons. We sat in the back and helped a little as needed. The 3rd graders were very excited to have older students teach the class and the two “teachers” did a good job.
During our classes, some of the students gave us flowers and other prepared small speeches to thank us. According to one of my 4th grade boys, I am very pretty and they like to have lessons with me very much because I never yell at them.
After lessons, some of the teachers went to our raion center for a big concert and ceremony, but I didn’t join them. On Friday, the 8th graders prepared a concert for us, with poems, songs, and even a skit. Then, that evening, all of the teachers went to a larger nearby town to have a really nice party at a restaurant. We ate, drank, and danced for several hours. It was a really nice celebration and everyone seemed to have a very nice time.
Last Thursday, September 21st, was International Day of Peace, a holiday celebrated around the world. The holiday was established by the UN in 1981 and is devoted to “commemorating and strengthening the ideals of peace both within and among all nations and peoples”(1). The 2017 theme was “Together for Peace: Respect, Safety, and Dignity for All”(2).
*The following photos are what the students at our school wrote in response to “What does peace mean?”
Many Peace Corps volunteers around the globe do various activities to celebrate the holiday in their communities and workplaces. My site mate, Amir, and I organized some simple activities to commemorate the day in our school.
After a short assembly with students in 5th through 9th grade, where some 9th grade students read some information about the holiday and this year’s theme, we gathered all of the students and some of the teachers in the courtyard in front of our school. The students formed the shape of a peace sign, which most of the students but few of the teachers were familiar with.
After, during the breaks throughout the day, students wrote what peace means to them on whiteboards and posed for pictures.
It was the first time our school had done something to note the holiday, and the students and teachers alike were interested to learn more (at first, many of the teachers thought it was International Peace Corps Day!).
A couple of weeks ago, school began once again in Moldova. Moldovan schools traditionally start on September 1st, and this year was no different (at least in my village- some districts decided to start the following Monday instead). The first day of school is a big event here, and is called First Bell.
The day starts off with all of the students gathering outside the front of the school in the courtyard, along with parents and teachers. For the first grade students, this is their very first day of school, and much of the celebrations focus on them. There are speeches, recitations of poems, and maybe a song or two. The 1st grade students receive their first textbook, given to them from students in the 9th grade.
Then, at the very end of the ceremony, a ninth grade boy hoists a first grade girl on his shoulders and they walk around the circle of other students as the girl rings a huge bell, signifying the start of the school year (and hence the name “First Bell”). The students enter the school and have a one hour lesson with their homeroom classes, and then everyone is free to go home!
I think it’s a very nice way to start off the school year on the right foot. I was a little nervous in the days heading up to the first day as rain was predicted (meaning all this would have to occur inside a very small assembly room), but the weather ended up being very nice!
This past weekend, my ninth grade students had their “Balul Absolvenţilor”, or Graduates Ball. This is a bit of a mixture between a graduation ceremony and prom. It is also the last step for the students before they are truly finished with their mandatory schooling. From my understanding, in many villages and towns these can be quite extravagant events, but because it was during the fasting period, my school’s celebration was a bit more laid back.
The students dressed up very nicely (girls in gowns, boys in collared shirt and tie/bow-tie) and their parents and teachers gathered with them in the school courtyard. The evening started with a ceremony, and the students received their diplomas and did a few performances (some singing, poem recitations, and dancing).
This was followed by a masa (meal/party) inside for everyone. Though it was supposedly a “simple” masa, it was still pretty extravagant- tons of food and drinks. After some toasts and eating, the students went outside for a dance while the adults continued to eat and drink. After everyone had plenty of time to eat, the adults were invited outside for dancing together with the students. The music was traditional and popular Moldovan music, and there were several different hora (Moldovan traditional dance) dances. After quite a while of dancing, everyone returned inside for round two of the masa and the students continued their dance outside.
The entire night was beautiful and memorable. It was also a bit bittersweet. After this summer, most of the students will go on to school or work in other towns, villages, and perhaps even countries. I won’t probably see many of them much after this. At the beginning of the year, this was a group of students that was a bit difficult. But by the end of the year, I was comfortable teaching them and was quite proud of their accomplishments. So I will miss them.
It was also bittersweet because it is one of the last big events in my village that I will experience as the only American. In August, I will be joined in my village by another wonderful volunteer, who will be teaching health at my school. Though I’m very excited to have a site mate and Amir, my new site mate, is really great, it was a little weird to realize that this is one of the last things I will experience “alone” at my site. My new site mate was visiting this weekend to check out the village and attended the first part of the night (the ceremony part) but went back to his host family’s after the ceremony (and was very kind to send me the pictures he took since I didn’t take any).
I have a feeling this will be one of my favorite memories from my time here. I had a great time and also felt a part of the community in a way I hadn’t completely felt before.
*All photos and videos by Amir F., used with permission.
This past weekend, I joined the other teachers from my school on an “excursie” (field trip) to two monasteries in the northern part of Moldova, Saharna and Ţîpova. We departed from our village in a rented rutiera (small bus) at 5:30 in the morning. It was a bit over 3 hours from our village to our first stop in Saharna.
We walked around the Saharna monastery for a bit, visiting the main church. On the hills surrouding the monastery there are crosses that you can walk to. We walked up to one of them- it was a somewhat difficult, steep hike. Here, there were gorgeous views into the valley and overlooking the Nistru.
On our way back down the hill to the monastery, we stopped to take some pictures as a group. I handed my camera off to Maxim, the seven year old son of one of the other teachers, so I could get in some photos. He did a pretty good job!
Most of the rest of our group visited the izvor, or spring, that is located in the woods at the monastery. Here, you are supposed to change into a nightgown or robe and dunk yourself fully in the freezing cold water. The water is said to have healing powers. I did not participate, but I walked down to see the izvor. There were a lot of mosquitoes, so I went back to the entrance of the monastery with the Russian teacher from my school and we waited there for the rest of the group. While sitting by the entrance, I saw a woman who I thought was another volunteer, and it was! She was also visiting the monastery with her school.
From Saharna, we headed to Ţîpova Monastery. In addition to being a cave monastery, it is also a historical site and museum. We started off at the church at the top of the hill, which is actually a different monastery. From there, we walked down a steep incline and then back up and then down again. Ţîpova is located right along the Nistru River and the views were incredible! There is an entrance fee, though it’s pretty small, and our group paid for the guide.
Ţîpova is one of the oldest monasteries in Moldova, built in the 14th century. It is a cave monastery, built into the side of a small cliff. During Soviet times, it did not function as a monastery and fell into disrepair. Although some renovations and restorations have occurred since Moldovan independence in 1991, they are currently raising money to do more complete restorations, particularly, of the sanctuary built into the cave.
We visited the sanctuary, where services are held Saturday evenings and on major holidays. There is a small exhibit/museum off the sanctuary with some of the history of the monastery as well as images showing what they hope it will look like when restorations are complete. We also checked out some of the smaller caves down below and above, where the monks would have lived and worked.
After climbing back up the hill to the church on top, we headed back towards home. After a difficult day of hiking and climbing, we were all very tired and hungry. According to Orthodox faith, you aren’t supposed to eat before you visit a monastery, so our first meal of the day occurred an hour later when we stopped by the side of the road around 3:30 in the afternoon and had a large picnic.
Each of the teachers had brought boiled eggs, placinta, bread, sarmale, and other foods. Of course, there was also plenty of house wine! There were also some of the first cherries of the season! Once we had finished eating, we drove the final two plus hours home, getting back around 6:30. It was a very exhausting day, but it was fun! I especially loved Ţîpova and would recommend going there if you’re ever in Moldova.